Fear Factory is a trailblazing metal outfit whose latest offering TRANSGRESSION finds the band working out of its element a tad by working with an outside production squad. When catching up with bassist turned guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers backstage at Irving Plaza before the bandís performance, he sounded off about the change, as well as the metal scene on a whole and clued us in to what tricks heís got up his sleeve.
E.C.: How does Transgression differ from the other albums you guys have done?
Christian: Well, we had a producer do everything. We had a producer come in and you know, tweak our knobs, where usually we are more involved with the people that we work with, so thatís definitely different. The mix is different, it sounds different, but you know, some people like the difference and you know, some people donít. Iím still trying to get used to it.
E.C.: Really, was it tough for you? Being that you were always one of the knob twiddlers?
Christian: Yeah, it was kind ofÖ it was tough just to get the, you know, let somebody else just kind of do their ideas. I had to walk out of the studio. I had to leave because Iím too much involved. Iím not really happy with my guitar sound. Itís no fucking secret, I ainít gonna lie about it.
E.C.: What was the easiest song to record?
Christian: I donít know, Iíve never really looked at it like that. I mean, theyíre all different. Iíve never really looked at it like that.
E.C.: On this album especially, they are all different. Thereís a lot of different stuff on there.
Christian: Yeah, we have a lot more songs. We had five more songs that werenít even finished because we were stressing for time. We had all this time and then all of the sudden we didnít have enough time. We were trying to squeeze it all in this short period and I feel this record was really rushed. We should have had a lot more time because we had a record that was out last year. You know, you want to make the deadline and this and that and have the record come out at the end of the year, so you know, thatís the business I guess.
E.C.: How have you noticed the metal scene changing since you started in this band?
Christian: Well, it changes constantly. Now we have all these newer metal bands that actually sound like old metal bands. But, you know, there is this whole new army of kids and there are all these newer bands that arenít much very much different from what I grew up on. Just the vocals maybe a little bit here and there.
E.C.: You see it coming back full circle?
Christian: Yeah, itís nothing new to me. When I hear Lamb of God I hear Forbidden and Exodus and all those bands and riffs, like Slayer and shit. But, maybe a little bit of the vocals here and there are different. Thatís my problem with a lot of older metal, Ď80s metal bands. I always liked the riffs but never the vocals. Like Exodus, great band, but I didnít like the vocals. Anthrax, sick band, but the vocals were like, didnít really have it. Not until Pantera came out, then it was like, okay this guy put the right vocals on top of his fucking killer shit. One of my favorite bands was Violence, but I didnít like the singer that much, but I loved the fucking riffs and attitude of the band. So, I think it all comes down to bands like Pantera, who came out and flipped the script because they had the riffs, the music, and they had a killer front man. You donít find that too often anymore, a band like that. I havenít felt that feeling since Pantera came out, with another band, like where Iím amazed.
E.C.: What keeps Fear Factory going after all these years? After you know, you guys have such a history and stuff.
Christian: I donít know, thatís a good question. I guess sometimes itís from being at home and saying letís go do another record so we can go out on tour a little bit and stuff. I donít know what it is, but I can tell you that itís definitely not the money.
E.C.: I know you are busy; youíve got so many other projects going on. Explain some of them. What are you up to, what are you currently doing?
Christian: Threat Signal. They are an upcoming band signed to Nuclear Blast. Iím producing them right now. Theyíve just recorded their record, itís in postproduction and then they are going to mix in January with Tue Madsen and thatís going to be a killer record. Killer band. Iím doing a bunch of hip-hop shit here and there. Yeah, hopefully Iíll be working with one of the guys from D-12 soon. The guys from Non Phixion, who are from Brooklyn, I work with a lot, as well as a lot of other people. I try to stay busy, working with DJ Marx and Cypress Hill, doing a mash-up album, trying to stay busy in all fields.
E.C.: How do you guys recruit bands to tour?
Christian: No, we just see whoís out there, who has records out there, whoís touring, whoís planning to tour and we just make a choice. We select them and find out if they are willing to go out with us.
E.C.: How was this summerís Gigantour?
Christian: It was good. It was cool being back on tour with Megadeth. We toured with them like in í95, so it was fun. I mean, Dave (Mustaine) is a cool dude, we never had any problems with them, heís a nice guy and all the other guys in the band and the camp are really nice too, so we had a lot of fun. Itís good being on a big summer tour again. I mean, it wasnít full packed houses every night, but it was still like large places and stuff. Enthusiastic people, thatís key you know. It was good and we had fun that tour.
E.C.: Now, I know you work on so much music, but who are you currently listening to?
Christian: Usually the hip-hop shit I listen to mainly. Iím always trying to find good sounding beats that I like. Thereís a lot of artists out there that I like their records, but on the metal front, Iíve been listening to the Threat Single record for a month. Thatís a good band who Iím actually a fan of, even though I produced it. I wouldnít have produced them if I didnít think they were a great band. Thatís pretty much it. I havenít really been listening to too muchÖ I mean, Lamb of God once in a while, but mainly like hip hop shit or shit Iím working on usually. Thatís what I hear all day.
E.C.: Does the hip-hop stuff annoy the rest of the band?
Christian: I donít know, probably Burton to an extent, but I donít care.
E.C.: How do you guys currently get a song done? Who does the main songwriting now?
Christian: Well, Raymond (Herrera, drummer) and I get together with the MPC and the guitar and thatís it. We start writing songs. Thatís all we do, and Iíll just record the guitars and bass line, make a rough demo song of it, and then pass it on to Burton and see what he thinks. Itís a fairly simple process.
E.C.: And Byron (bassist for both Strapping Young Lad and Fear Factory) just comes in to do the tour?
Christian: Yup. Usually heís busy with Strapping or heís in Canada, so weíll fly him up to do the bass, and teach him all the songs and then by that time Iíve done the whole record already, so I just do it real quick. Itís easier.
E.C.: How did you get involved with Fear Factory to begin with?
Christian: I got hooked up with Fear Factory through Biohazard like 12 years ago or something. I lived in Belgium, and Iíve seen Biohazard come through Belgium a couple of times and knew they were from New York, but they were recording a record in LA at the time and I bumped into them by the supermarket, so I was kind of tripping out. They told me that Fear Factory needs a bass player. So, I tried out, and Iím still here.
E.C.: What would you like to accomplish in Fear Factory that you guys havenít yet?
Christian: A platinum record.
E.C.: You guys donít have a platinum record? DEMANUFACTURE didnít go Platinum?
Christian: No, it hasnít even gone gold yet. The only record that went gold was OBSOLETE, but barely.
E.C.: Do you prefer touring or recording?
Christian: When you are touring you want to record, and when you record you want to tour. Itís always like that.
E.C.: Do you miss home? Where is home now?
Christian: Los Angeles.
E.C.: Do you miss Belgium?
E.C.: Not at all?
Christian: Not at all.
E.C.: Really? Do you have family back there still?
Christian: Yeah, but I donít really miss it, Iíve always wanted to come here and thatís where Iím at. Iíve got family there so I go back there and see them.
E.C.: Whatís the best thing about playing with Fear Factory that you canít get with all your other endeavors?
Christian: Playing live. That hour and a half on stage, knowing that there are all these people that love your shit and come out there to see you and support you, thatís probably the best thing.
E.C.: Do you have any animosity towards Dino (Cazares, former guitarist)? If you saw him would you say whatís up to him?
Christian: No, I havenít talked to him since 2001. Yeah, I wouldnít talk to him. Thatís all between Burton and him. I stay out of that shit.
E.C.: Whatís the toughest part about being a metal musician?
Christian: The toughest par for me is if Iím not warmed up the right way before the show, Iíll be struggling because that shit is so fucking brutal to play, especially with all the newer shit. ďSlave LaborĒ and ďSpinal CompressionsĒ are the two most brutal songs in the set, and if Iím not warmed up right or not feeling it that night, I struggle on stage, I suck, and that feeling sucks.
E.C.: How do you warm up?
Christian: I just have to play the guitar for an hour before the show. I just warm up, get ready for that show and be able to get those riffs right. Thatís the hardest part.
E.C.: Now, you are originally a bass player. Is it tough for you to just go and switch back and forth?
Christian: No, itís not really that tough, Iím probably a more dominant playing guitar now, so I have to be more on top of my game. We wrote some shit on ARCHETYPE thatís just brutal. Itís more physical. The duration of the song stays that way. It doesnít really slow down. Itís relentless.
E.C.: Whatís your take on the current metal scene?
Christian: Itís tough to find bands out there that I really like. I donít think thereís really anything new. I mean, there are a lot of bands that scream and scream, but the screaming just getsÖI donít feel like thereís passion behind it. I feel thereís more passion behind Chester from Linkin Park and his screams when he goes off than is in most of these metal bands. A lot of people donít give that kid credit, but that motherfucker screams his balls off. Heís fucking on the money, heís got good harmonies, heís got good melodies and while I donít really like the rapping shit, even though I like hip-hop, I think the stuff theyíve got goes overboard. Even in the beginning ,I wasnít a fan of the first record when heard it, but the new record was full of fucking great hooks. Theyíre a good band because they have got a good singer. Itís easier to become a good band if youíve got a great singer. You know, it comes down to the people. There are so many great metal bands out there, but few have a great singer. Even when I hear Lamb of God Iím like what the fuck, you canít scream? Where your balls at? Jamey from Hatebreed has more fucking power then all of these guys. You know what I mean, heís got that fuckingÖ thatís what I want, I want to feel that shit, thatís what Phil (Anselmo) had. Most of these guys are like weak, and Iím like what the fuck, what is this shit. You have a great fucking band, and your vocals are like mediocre. I feel like pretty much every metal band is like that.
E.C.: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Christian: Have a backup plan.
E.C.: Any final words for the readers?
Christian: Pick up our new record, TRANGRESSION. Itís out and about.